Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why Bill Maher is Misunderstood

Bill Maher is not attacking Muslims, but attacking Liberals who give one religion a free ride, while criticizing others.

Bill Maher is an atheist.   He doesn't disdain Islam, he disdains all religions equally.   To the atheist mind, religion is just a bunch of silly stories designed to keep the plebes in line so you can make them work hard and then loot their pocketbooks.   And there is a nugget of truth in that, if you have been paying attention.   Religion attempts to control the minds of the "believers" and they always ask for money.  Always.

But lately, Bill has gotten into hot water for "Attacking Islam" and being intolerant and insensitive.   And again, this is another example of a whole bunch of people completely missing the point of his diatribe - much as they completely miss the point of most things.   Again, if you can act rationally in an irrational world, you can make out like a bandit.

And the irrational thinking today is that somehow, Western religions are fine to be mocked and humiliated and criticized and degraded.  It is open-season on the Catholic Church, fundamentalist Christianity, and of course Mormons.

We criticize the Catholic church for its long history of abuse and accumulation of power.  We condemn them for the Spanish Inquisition.   We recoil in horror a the Priest sex abuse scandals (and act shocked, even though the rumors have been around for decades).  We make fun of Nuns and Priests on television, movies, and in general.   Even Catholics make fun of their own church.   Somehow, Catholicism has survived all of this.

Protestants haven't escaped this critique, either.   We condemn them for the violent excesses of the reformation, the witch hunts of Salem, and of course, the quirky beliefs of fundamentalists and end-times theologians.   Oh, and yes, we mock them when their holier-than-thou preachers are arrested for soliciting sex from undercover Police Officers.

Christian holidays, of course, have been secularized in a manner than would be abhorrent to a Muslim, if such a thing were done to their beliefs.   We take Christmas and Easter and turn them into commercial holidays, and add cartoon characters into the mix.   Christians largely take this in stride.   In fact, many fundamentalists complained about it at first, but today are arguing that the "secularization" of Christmas is in fact a good thing as it makes these holidays inclusive.

Protestantism has survived all of this, of course, well-intact.

Mormons have always been singled out for particular abuse.   They are also Christians - they just believe that Jesus got around a bit more.   We mock them for their funny underwear, as if that was some sort of weird thing.   Yet we give gay men a pass on the bizarre underwear they put on - tight shorts with pouches and underwires to make them look as though they have perpetual erections.   Who really has the weird underwear here?

There is even a Broadway show that mocks Mormonism openly.   And yet, Mormons seem to take this in stride.   Their beliefs are stronger than that - the criticism of a non-believer is really irrelevant, isn't it?

But here in the West, while we openly mock our own religions, we somehow feel that it is wrong to criticism certain other religions, while ours are fair game.   Islam, Buddhism, and Native American beliefs are all viewed with awe and respect, even when they are shown to be somewhat ridiculous or even dangerous.

An episode of The Simpsons illustrates the problem succinctly.  Krusty the Clown, in his Christmas Special, tells everyone to have a "Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a Dignified and Respectful Ramadan."   When it comes to Islam, we in the West feel a little gun-shy.   It is OK, apparently, to be joyful about Christianity and Judaism, but, hey, don't piss off the Muslims!

And it is this is what Mr. Maher is criticizing, not Islam itself.   There is no reason why we should give Islam a free pass while we eviscerate, for example, Mormonism, particularly when the latter religion is so rarely involved in terrorism, acts of violence, or suppression of basic human rights.

Yes, not all Muslims are like the Taliban.   That is not the point.   The point is, we are not even allowed to discuss the issue, without being called religious bigots.  Meanwhile, tell all the pedophile priest jokes you want.

And what really galls Maher is that it is not right-wing types trying to suppress discussion, but liberals who somehow feel intimidated by Islam, or that they need to show "respect" for a foreign religion, lest they be accused of bigotry.  But, hey, have you heard this one?   "A Priest, a Minister and a Rabbi go into a bar...."

Faith should be stronger than criticism or mockery.   And yet Islam, perhaps because it is a newer faith, seems somewhat especially vulnerable.   Muslims of all stripes do not take any criticism of their religion very lightly - as evidenced by the backlash against Maher by "moderate" Muslims who chant, "We're all not like that!"

Indeed, and not all Catholic Priests are pedophiles.   But stop me if you've heard this one....

It is odd, and Maher is just pointing out that Islam should be up for examination and critique (and yes, even mockery) as any other religion is.  And if you are Muslim, well, take a page from the Book of Mormon and just turn the other cheek.   Because if your faith is so fragile it can't handle such inquiry, then maybe your faith isn't very strong.